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Majid BEKKAS – African Gnawa Blues 2001

Posted in JAZZ, Majid BEKKAS on November 18, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Majid BEKKAS – African Gnawa Blues 2001

Jazz

ABDELMAJID BEKKAS embarked on his musical career in 1972 playing banjo in Moroccan “Jil” groups rather like Nass El Ghiwane. Over the years, the master Ba Houmane, in Salé, initiated him into Gnawa music. He then studied classical guitar and oud at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat, where he later taught classical guitar.
In parallel, Majid was delving deeper in the Blues and Soul, playing in his own group in the eighties as a guitarist, keyboard player and singer. In the nineties, he created the Gnaoua Blues Band, splitting his time between compositions, recordings and touring.
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Majid Bekkas, oud and guembri virtuoso, guitar professor and singer, has long been a star in his home country Morocco. Over the last few years, he has found his way into the European jazz scene through his collaborations with Archie Shepp, Louis Sclavis, Flavio Boltro or Klaus Doldinger. Abdelmajid Bekkas was born and still lives in Salé, Morocco. He studied classical guitar and oud at the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat and learnt Gnawa music through the teachings of the master Ba Houmane. Gnawa appeared in the 16th century. During the conquest of Sudan, Ahmed El Mansour Dahbi set up the first trading and cultural links between Timbuktu, near Zagora where Bekkas comes from, and Marrakech. The secular music is still considered the “healer of souls” from Essaouira to Marrakech, easily understandable when you listen to the spellbinding sound of Bekkas´ voice, guembri and guitar. Like a watermark, the mystery of Africa can be felt in the backround, alongside the blues. Gnawa´s intact purity is the essence of the authenticity. By claiming to be part of Africa, the mother of the blues and ist numerous offspring such as funk, Bekkas is placing Gnawa in its primary dimension. By opening the spectrum (including elements of contemporary western music), Bekkas attains a universal status that is nurtured by the path he travelled. These include: jazz, alongside pioneers such as Peter Brötzmann, Archie Shepp, Flavio Boltro, Louis Sclavis.
With “Daymallah” Bekkas represents Morocco on the award-winning CD compilation “Desert Blues 2”. He already performed at several international festivals, such as WOMEX Sevilla 2003, Gaume Jazz Festival, Huyart Festival, Grenoble Jazz Festival, Festival de Essaouira, …
Bekkas´ openness and ability to balance modernism and memory with a rare talent that knews no compromise, frees the music from the stamp of time. The memory is that of pain and wisdom, of songs that come from the slaves of Africa.

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American continent is not the only place where descendants of black slaves make wonderful music. The Moroccan Gnawas are well known for their trance music and healing rituals. Their history spans more that 4 centuries. When the Moroccan army captured Timbuktu in 1591, several thousand men and women were brought north as slaves. Caravans were transporting unfortunate black Africans to the slave market of Marrakech. This lasted until 1912. “Tied in sacks they brought us, in the camel bags. And they sold us in the wool market. May God pardon them.” Other Moroccans look at Gnawas with mixed curiosity and supremacy. Their music is linked to the sub-Saharan spiritual world. Their mournful singing, shattering rhythm of the metal castanets and bass-guitar like sound of guimbri make base for the all night lila rituals, which culminate in the exorcist session early in the morning.
Majid Bekkas was raised in a Gnawa family in Salé, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. where he began playing the guimbri in healing ceremonies. Inspired by the traditional-pop fusion of the group Nass El Ghiwane in the ’70s, he began to branch out, and never stopped. Playing guitar and guimbri and singing in a variety of styles, he has worked with popular, jazz and experimental musicians. Fours years ago he emerged as a talent in his own right.
His albums African Gnaoua Blues (Igloo, 2001) and Mogador (Igloo, 2004) show links both to the American bluesman John Lee Hooker and the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré. Bekkas is fascinated by the similarities between Gnawa and blues, both musical genres created by African slaves in a foreign cultural context. When an African musician hears black music from America, he notices kinship. He can play the same tune, but with a different feeling. An transcultural discharge occurs, soft blue notes cascading like summer lightning.
Resembling American blues, also Bekkas’s songs have the power of personal statement. On stage, he switches guitar with the traditional Gnawa guimbri. A wooden flute and percussion complete very intimate soundscape. If you are looking for Taj Mahal with African charm, meet Majid Bekkas.
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01. African Blues  7:00
02. Mrahba  6:02
03. Hamdouchi  8:44
04. Youbadi  6:42
05. Balini  7:57
06. Daymallah  7:07
07. Sandiye  5:54
08. Galou  6:45
09. Soudani Manayou  9:18
10. Mawama  4:57
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